Janauary 5, 2012
Candidate Barack Obama criticized President Bush for using ‘signing statements’ to ignore the will of Congress. But Obama’s done the same thing 20 times since taking office, and his latest effort is rankling lawmakers.
As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama promised that if he was elected president he would not issue obscure declarations known as signing statements that thwart the intent of laws passed by Congress. But as the president now seeking reelection in 2012, on at least 20 occasions Obama has embraced the same tactic he criticized George W. Bush for using, raising allegations of double-dealing in Congress and questions of constitutionality from the American Bar Association.
Obama’s most recent signing statement came on New Year’s Eve, when he autographed a 13-paragraph memorandum declaring he did not intend to follow several sections of the National Defense Authorization Act that funded the military for 2012. The president said his lawyers had concluded the provisions interfered with his constitutional duties to carry out foreign policy.
The signing statement essentially declares Obama’s intention to ignore requirements in the law, including restrictions on data transfers to Russia, new authorities to detain suspected members of al Qaeda, and sanctions against the central bank of Iran. The move has alienated members of Congress who claim the White House reneged on promises it made during backroom negotiations to get the long-stalled legislation passed just before lawmakers left for the holidays.